Dr Tosh Warwick is a research associate at Manchester Metropolitan University, currently researching the history of Middlesbrough’s former Ayresome Park home. Ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup third-round tie between Boro and Tottenham, he has been looking at the first FA Cup meeting between the two teams in 1905

PITCHING up at Ayresome Park on Saturday, February 4, 1905, Tottenham arrived for their FA Cup first-round tie having enjoyed recent trophy successes, most notably lifting the trophy in 1900-01 as a non-league side.

Middlesbrough had moved to their new Ayresome Park home two years earlier with ambitions to join the game’s elite, but met non-league Spurs as they struggled to make an impact in the First Division.

In line with trends across the country, FA Cup football at Ayresome Park proved a huge draw for the Teesside footballing faithful as the prospect of cup glory increased attendances and gate receipts. The previous tie held at Ayresome Park, a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City, attracted a ground record attendance of 33,000 supporters. The Tottenham tie once again captured the imagination of sports fans in the Ironopolis as a 20,340 attendance brought gate receipts of £797.

The large crowd witnessed a hard fought 1-1 draw. After falling behind to a seventh-minute Alexander Glen goal for Spurs, Middlesbrough replied through Henry Astley’s equaliser. Boro might have qualified had they taken their chances, with Bobby Atherton and James Thackeray guilty of missing open goals in the first half.

Boro were also denied an almost certain goal as Thackeray was tripped by Sandy Tait in the area, with William Agnew failing to convert the subsequent penalty. Had VAR been in play back in the 1900s, they might have had another penalty when Tottenham’s Tait was again the culprit as he handled in the penalty area. However, the referee failed to award a spot kick and Spurs held on for a replay at White Hart Lane.

Press reports of the Ayresome Park encounter praised the visitors’ resilience and rued Boro’s poor finishing. The London-based Daily News led with the headline ‘HOTSPUR DO WELL UP NORTH’, praising Tottenham’s efforts and describing the home crowd’s appreciation of the “speedy, tricky and effective” performance of Spurs’ Joe Walton, “for the hardy Northerner loves to see such play, even if it does come from one of the visiting side”.

Boro travelled to London for a replay on February 9 having not won away from home since a 3-0 success against Preston North End in the FA Cup on February 20, 1904. Yet, hopes were high that with improved finishing, John Robson’s men might progress to the next round.

Once again, however, the men from Teesside were found wanting in front of goal and despite an excellent display by Boro goalkeeper Tim Williamson, a Charles O’Hagan own goal with three minutes remaining put Boro out of the FA Cup and secured Spurs a tie with Newcastle United.

Williamson’s performance drew plaudits in the national press and his fine form would see him gain his first England cap weeks later in a 1-1 draw with Ireland at Ayresome Park. In late February, Tottenham were knocked out of the FA Cup by Newcastle, while Boro’s woeful away form was ended courtesy of a debut goal by controversial new £1,000 world record signing Alf Common in a 1-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.